Thursday, May 21, 2020

Improbable Tales Reviews: Dr. Warp

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Obligatory Warning

If you are spoiler-wary, this entry and this series is full of spoilers for a six-year-old product. If you don't want to know what's in one of Fainting Goat's first eleven Improbable Tales adventures, well, don't read this. Okay?

Okay.

Today (after a long hiatus) we'll talk about the fifth adventure in the Improbable Tales series, Dr. Warp and his Golden Robots, written by Dan Houser, with art by Dan Houser.

I ran portions of this one on Roll20 a couple of years ago, incorporated into a different adventure. As usual, I kept parts of the body and changed the soul.

Precis

Dr. Warp comes from the groovy 1960s with his female-appearing robots (by accident, but that's backstory). He decides to threaten to launch a missile or two in the quest for world peace. He has a captive (Electric Dervish) and a pinnacle robotic achievement with her own agenda: threatening to end the world is not enough; she's like a Nike product and wants to just do it.

Comments

It's a nice self-contained adventure. There are pieces of a larger world right there to be picked up if you want to, or you can slot it into something bigger.

If you don't want to have time travel possible in your game, even by accident (I'm tempted to say, “What's wrong with you?” but everybody gets to choose), then Dr. Warp can be cryogenically frozen by accident: how he gets to the present is not as important as the idea that he gets here and for him, no time has passed.

As I said, I have swiped a number of things from this adventure. It probably counts as one of the most-stolen-from in my collection.

Likes

A grab-bag of items:

  • Not that I don't like PATRIOT, but here the US military is involved, and it's quite reasonable, (it's their missile base, after all).
  • Fully detailed missile base. You can use this again and again.
  • An NPC hero who doesn't hog the spotlight.
  • We have Dan Houser's unpatented Gluon technology to play with in the future.

I've gotten a lot of use out of this adventure. Even if you don't run it as written, there are a nice selection of parts to scavenge and re-purpose.

Dislikes

Editorially, the adventure feels like it goes on a bit about making this a groovy experience (with cake). In practice, that's only a paragraph or two and it's set aside so you could ignore the sidebar. That's a pretty small nitpick.

Changes and Consequences

One of the things I did was tie it into the Terrible Terror-Pin: Dr. Warp and he had been rivals for the same woman (the one the robots are modeled after, for the extra dose of creepiness). (It occurs to me the standard Dr. Warp robots can certainly be re-used elsewhere. If the plans became available on the Internet, no doubt every supervillain with buckets of money and even more megalomania would have them.) She married our professor instead of Dr. Warp, but Warp's reappearance and the looks of the robots push him over the edge and he dusts off the old unsafe tech to create a rival and destroy that Dr. Warp once and for all!

I should have done something with Platinum there (the ultimate villain of the piece), but I did throw in muck monsters (based on a cut-down of a writeup I did of Swamp Thing) to show that gluon technology had some disadvantages.

Assembled Updates

Part of the drill is that Invulnerability becomes Damage Resistance; Life Drain becomes Energy Drain; Wizardry becomes Magic or Gadgets.

Platinum Bombshell

Powers

Invulnerability becomes Damage Resistance; Wizardry becomes Gadgets; Blinding becomes Dazzle

Specialties

Computers, Electronics, and Mechanics all get folded into Technology Master.

Qualities

The seven challenges become three Qualities; my suggestions are:

  • Clearly a robot (includes possibility of deactivation code)
  • Eradicate humankind to bring about world peace!
  • Weakness to EMP & electrical attacks shut down by EMP or a Major Success with electrical attacks.

Electric Dervish

Powers

Elemental Control (Electrical) becomes Electrical Control, with the base power of blast (the EMP pulse), and the extras Aura and Nullify (Limit: solid-state electronics only).

Specialties

The Computers and Electronics specialties become Technology.

Qualities

My suggestions are:

  • “Electro-Magnificent!”
  • Repair technician for the FBI
  • Water! Why did it have to be water?

Dr. Warp

Specialties

Electronics, Computers, and Mechanics become Technology; the slightly higher mechanics we'll handle by invoking a Quality.

Qualities

My suggestions are:

  • Mad Robotics Genius!
  • Validate me and my creations!
  • My beloved creations will help you

Golden Gyno-Droid

Specialties

Computers becomes Technology.

Qualities

My suggestions:

  • Robot!
  • Weakness to EMP & electrical attacks shut down by EMP or a Major Success with electrical attacks.
  • Protect and obey Dr. Warp

General Franklin “Pitbull” Potter

Qualities

Only the Qualities need to be updated to Assembled. There are so many nice character bits, but we'll try these:

  • General in US Army
  • Hates superhumans of all kinds
  • Gruff and Angry

Conclusion

I'd give this one an A. If you're not going to pick up the collection, you should certainly pick up this adventure.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Idea du jour: Family Business

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Idea du jour

Because we're all locked up, I suspect there are more one-on-one campaigns happening. This popped into my head.

The premise is that the player is playing one of the three heroes in the city. (Well, the player plays all three — one for each tier of play — but usually not concurrently.)

My current thinking is a family or pseudo-family; we're either talking three generations (or you can finesse it to two), or three siblings, something like that, one for each tier of play: Premier, Champion and Backup. For example:

  • The eldest is the Premier hero. Although technically seventy years old, some doubletalk has kept this hero young, whether it was being frozen for fifty-five years, alien antagathic treatments, mutant metabolism, or a magic spell.
  • The middle character is the Backup hero. He or she is rebelling against the absent parent and deliberately chose to do work at the local level instead of on the national or global stage.
  • The Champion hero is the child of the Backup hero, or the grown-up sidekick. This character is ready to step out on the big stage, now.

The GM creates a supervillain for each one, but I'd produce it commercially with that setup in mind. Some of the universe creation stuff is already there (the villainous organization SKULL; the Association for Parareal Technology; the Sisters of the Sigilant; and so on) so the GM doesn't have to come up with it.

Provide character hooks galore, and the player characters are intertwined: Grandad just came out of suspended animation, Mom's taken over her husband's hero role because she thinks he's dead and has re-married, Junior is angry at Mom for betraying Dad's memory and ignoring Grandad, who seems cool, and is struggling with some romantic interest.

Provide half a dozen adventures and villains lightly sketched out, and provide twice as many seed.

Three campaign models immediately suggest themselves to me:

  • You can play as the presented family or sub in your own characters for them
  • Play as superhero rivals to them
  • Play as their arch-foes and do a Romeo and Juliet thing

Friday, April 3, 2020

Silver Age weirdness

Any

Someone on Facebook was looking for Silver Age weirdness, like Batman and Robin on a giant typewriter or Superman going back in time and dating Marilyn Monroe on Krypton or something. (I think those are the examples he gave.)

So I put too much thought into this.

Adventures like that span both the Golden and Silver Ages, and to me it seems like they derive from a few things:

  • First, they're mostly a DC thing, probably because Marvel was mostly doing monster and romance comics in the fifties. You can still find weirdness at every publisher, but we remember the DC ones.
  • Apes and motorcycles always sold well; put them on the cover!
  • They kind of come out of the idea that there aren't consequences. The audience for the stories is presumed to turn over in four years or less, so you don't get tied down in continuity. That's how you get some of those guano-crazy Bob Haney scripts, where Batman sells his soul to the devil or that Haney created Wonder Girl because he didn't realize that Kanigher had created Wonder Girl as the adventures of Wonder Girl when she was a teen.
  • Some of it was just for the convenience of the artists. Giant props? They added visual interest while being things that might well be around the house, so it was easy for the artist to get it. None of this Harvey Kurtzman "No, Jack, the sulfa goes to the left of the gauze pad" business here.
  • The comics were still trying to be “hip” and relevant to the kids today, so they would sprinkle in stuff like JFK or Marilyn Monroe, but often with slight changes to avoid legal problems.
  • They weren't winking at the audience, who were presumably kids. If Superman fell in love with Lerilynlon-Roe on Krypton, he really did fall in love. The emotions were real, even if shallow, because the audience wasn't presumed to be ironic or sarcastic. They were kids.

Given all of that, you had to have what Orson Scott Card calls "event" stories and what Robin Laws calls "iconic" heroes. The characters didn't change because the characters couldn't change — you couldn't guarantee that a kid was going to get next month's issue or had bought last month's issue. (I've got a collected edition of Supergirl from the 1960s that's starting to get some continuity but in no way is it necessary for the stories...sometimes Supergirl uses something from another comic, and some things happen over two or three issues, but the changes are rarely permanent or are rarely personal.

Instead, you have more of a problem, attempt to solve, complication kind of structure.

Anyway, the original poster wanted some way of recreating the goofiness, and what occurred to me eventually was random tables. So we start with our premise, which is:

"An A gets powers but has to be pursued because he/she/it B, causing conflict, and there's this complication: D.

Use the appropriate die for each one; I'm just knocking this off, so I'm not striving for 6 or 10 or 20 of any of these.

A: the problem (apply 1. Giant or 2. Miniature if necessary)
#This thing
1Ape
2A pet (cat, dog, something)
3Insect
4Robot/alien invader
5Close friend of hero
6Rival of the love interest

Changes in some way (gets powers, falls sick, is mutated, arrives on earth) but the heroes have to engage because it has:

1Secret, like nuclear launch codes
2Disease cure
3Hero’s secret ID
4Celebrity
5Hero’s love/hate
6Is actually a transformed friend of hero

So there's conflict. But there's a complication, which is part of what makes the story goofy.

Goofy complication
1Hero is shrunk
2Hero is grown
3At place that makes giant working props
4At historical period or mythical place of interest to readers
5At historical period of interest to hero (Krypton, Crime Alley, etc)
6Hero is altered some way (powerless, gender-swapped, obese, has head of ant, traded with subject of problem)

That gets you Superboy shrinking into a small engine (a Julie Schwarz joint, written by Kurt Busiek!), various Krypton adventures, probably goofy things with Atlantis, most Jimmy Olsen adventures... Get a motorcycle in there and you might be good.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Adventures versus fiction

I just noticed an interesting thing about roleplaying adventures versus fiction. They require different kinds of specificity.

What brought it to mind is that I'm writing a story built on the idea that an escape room gets suborned by a supervillain and the heroes have to solve the puzzles and defeat the supervillain while still hiding their secret identities.

In a roleplaying adventure, you probably have to come up with every puzzle in the escape room. Players can either solve the puzzles or bypass them, but the puzzles have to be there so that the players can choose whether or not to engage with them. The other stuff — the stuff about secret identities and figuring out the supervillain's plan and who (if anyone) is also a superhero in secret identity, and if there are others, who is the supervillain really after? That stuff gets set up but it emerges in play.

Like, if a player says, "Fuck it, I'm Hyperman!" that's a valid player choice. It's not in the spirit of the problem I put forth, but it's a valid choice.

In a story, however, the puzzles of the escape room are secondary — they're explained only to further some other concept, either showing who's really clever in the group, or that so-and-so really knows about locks, or whatever. The relationships turn out to be the important thing. So-and-so is a villain, or is probably a hero, or hates the person who makes their powers happen so didn't show up with that person tonight.

I have begun to think of this as putting a bathroom on the U. S. S. Enterprise:

In a story, it's not relevant to what you're doing. In a roleplaying adventure it has to be there. Someone might come up with a clever idea to fool the Klingons using the vanity mirror or something. Some player is going to ask about it, and having it helps their immersion.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Hope you're all taking care of yourselves

I'm not ignoring you, but I have to admit that right now I'm having a hard time forcing myself back to the computer when work hours are over. (Not that I don't spend too long obsessing over news from tweets and Facebook, but I'm trying to cut that down too.)

Game publishers are feeling the crunch, too. If you can, buy something from them; I just purchased one of the new adventures from Green Ronin for Mutants & Masterminds and one of the two missing Icons adventures from Ad Infinitum.

Be good to yourselves.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

From Batman (1989)

Icons

The 1989 Batman is on TV tonight, and I started wondering about it as a roleplaying session.

TL;DR: Not very good except as designed: for a single hero.

But let's try and figure it out anyway.

Structurally, it revolves around several people, but alas, for roleplaying we are primarily concerned about the scenes with the player(s). That makes it much shorter.

I missed the beginning of the movie (forgive me) and came in just after Joker kills Grissom. Still, let's try to piece it together. Some of this is from memory, so forgive me if it's not right.

  • I missed the beginning but we get to have a sequence where the player gets to test out the system by beating up a mook.
  • The next time that Batman shows up is at Ace Chemicals, where we get a fight sequence. Jack Napier then dies and Joker gets created.

Then Batman disappears from the story for quite a long time as we follow Jack Napier, Alexander Knox, and Vicki Vale. Now, that might be a good opportunity if you have some kind of a plot in mind, but it's got to be player-centric.

  • Eventually we get to Bruce observing the Joker kill the mob boss. There's the seed of a good problem there: how do the players keep wanton murder from happening at the courthouse?
  • The Smilex poison situation is a fine puzzle, but it could be resolved with a pyramid test as they try to find out the combinations of products.
  • The encounter in the museum, rescuing Vicki Vale and the subsequent chase, relies heavily on Batman being outnumbered. Might not be true for a group of heroes.
  • The encounter with the Joker in Vale's apartment is inconclusive, and is primarily a roleplaying event, with the realization of who Jack Napier is; don't know offhand how you'd make that sort of thing personal without knowing the heroes.
  • Then there's the poison gas from the parade balloons. Batman just happens to have the equipment to deal with it (he blew a determination point or his Gadgets applies to the bat-thing as well), but a lot of people still die. (Bats gets lots of leeway because he is apparently the first person to dress up in a costume and fight crime.)
  • And then the sequence in the church bell tower. Again, that's really a fight that's mano a mano, so it doesn't translate for a group of heroes.

That's not a bad number of encounters for an evening's adventure, so let's spitball for a moment.

We kinda want the villain created in the adventure. You could do a Fantastic Four or Challengers of the Unknown thing here, and have a group created.

Let's go over those encounters again, but try and make them really broad descriptions. Maybe we can pull enough out that they'd be good for a group.

  1. Announcement that the heroes are there, and minion encounter.
  2. Big fight that's really to trigger the creation of the villains.
  3. The puzzle as the villains unleash some kind of crime.
  4. The heroes and the bad guys meet in order to rescue someone who is the object of the villains' attentions (OotVA).
  5. There's some encounter involving the OotVA which lets the heroes connect the villains to something personal.
  6. The villains launch their Big Scheme and the heroes deal with it.
  7. Final boss fight.

Okay, that's actually not a bad structure. Of course, putting flesh on that skeleton is the tough part.

I think we really need to hold to the idea that these are the first heroes, or the first in decades. That way, we have a reason that the heroes don't immediately march to the local branch of Heroes Anonymous and demand to be let in.

The heroes can be of any type, but they got their powers at the same event: the event triggered the mutation (for Birthright), transformed, caused the need for training, and so on.

The group of villains would heavily depend on what your player characters are. For our purposes we'll make all of the villains some kind of Transformed. And a chemical plant is not a bad place for the accident, so we'll keep that.

We could combine the first two, actually: the big Ace Chemical fight is mostly against minions anyway.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Characters for Egg of Monsters

The Egg of Monsters

Icons

Oh, I threw up a story (an apt way of putting it, I suppose), but I didn't put up the character write-ups for Icons.

  • Mr. Verity Already written up; follow the link.
  • Dr. Tavor
  • Nora Stern of the CDC
  • Dracula
  • Various feral dogs standing in for wolves, where I just used the Wolf characteristics from the Icons Assembled rulebook.
  • The Egg of the Moors I handle as a plot device; it has a Supreme (10) Alteration Ray (Dimensional Travel to pocket dimension) and a fussy ritual.

Doctor Tavor, or Dr. Acula

Doctor Wilhelm Tavor is a parahuman with vampire-like powers, and who suffers from occasional breaks in reality where he believes that he is actually Dracula, Lord of the vampires.

PRW CRD STR INT AWR WIL Stamina
5 5 7 5 5 7 10
SpecialtiesMedicine, Mental Resistance, Athletics Master (+3)
Powers
  • Good Energy Drain (5)
    • Extra:: Life Drain
    • Extra: Ability Resistance
  • Amazing Life Support (8)
    • Mind Control
      • Extra: Burst (Limit: Animals only)
      • Limit: Hypnosis (Humans only)
    • Extra: Regeneration
      • Limit: Source (Energy Drain)
  • Poor Gliding (2)
  • Average Super--senses (3) (Darksight, +1 vision, +1 hearing)
Qualities:
  • Thinks he's Dracula in the wrong body
  • Accepts vampiric weaknesses
  • Can't recover Stamina except through Energy Drain

 

Nora Stern, CDC

Nora was a field operative for the CDC, investigating outbreaks of vampires, werewolves, and zombies.

Unfortunately, during a recent case, she was bitten by Dracula and became his thrall. She managed to hide it, and acted as though the subsequent banishment of Dracula meant that she was cured.

She began plotting to reverse the banishment and bring back her lord and master. It was a long and bloody campaign in which she was almost entirely successful, except for the part where Mynah showed up.

PRW CRD STR INT AWR WIL Stamina
3 4 3 4 4 4 7
Specialties Driving, Investigation, Martial Arts Expert (+2), Medicine, Occult
Equipment Taser, hand crossbow, phone, pistol
Qualities
  • Dracula's thrall (wounds on neck never heal)
  • Field operative
  • Sly and devious

 

Dracula

Don't get excited: this is the Super Villain Handbook version of Dracula cut down to represent extreme hunger and fatigue.

CDC (Supernatural Threats)

If you've done the math, you might realize that vampires are extremely contagious. Worst case, they double in numbers every mumble-mumble days. Even if it takes three bites and vampires only feed every week, that's doubling every month. It's the population of the earth in about three years.

Obviously, we're not hip-deep in undead, and part of that reason is the CDC. (And part of it is that these threats are not 100% contagious, though they're still bad.)

A small group in the CDC works with its counterparts in other nations to prevent certain kinds of contagions—vampires and werewolves primarily—and some memetic infections. They don't deal with cryptids or extraterrestrials; they wouldn't handle the invasion of the body snatchers...but they'd know who to call.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Temp! (The temp)

SYSTEM: ICONS

Meet Temp (Tom Asamot). In some ways, he's just a worker in the gig economy—he temps for all sorts of office organizations. He's really good at accounting and Microsoft Office (and he can really organize files). He's fairly bright and he's quick, and he has his truck and limousine licenses.

Also, he has some superpowers.

So he temps for superhero groups and supervillain groups when they need a bit of muscle. He temps for both. (What, you think there are so many vacancies on hero groups that he can get make a living at it?)

Powers? Well, he heals like crazy and he can fly a little bit (but not so fast that taking the car or train isn't usually a better option). It's hard to read his mind. Oh, yeah, he can be crazy strong for about ten rounds.

He sometimes works for SuperUber, the hero transport company, so the heroes might run across him if they call a SuperUber to the crime scene, or he might be temping in the villain hideout. Or he could escape the raid on the villain hideout and then be hired in the hero hideout.

The two things to remember about Tom are that he knows everybody because he's been around and that he's strict about not spilling anybody's secrets. So even if he does know where the villain hideout is, he's not going to tell, because he might need a job from them someday.

That could be a scenario subplot: the heroes need some information, and Tom is the guy who knows. How do they get it from him?

TEMP (Tom Asamot - Birthright)
PRW CRD STR INT AWR WIL Stamina
6 6 4 4 5 5 9
Specialties Business (+1), Drive (+1), Mental Resistance Expert (+2)
Powers
  • Great (6) Regeneration
  • Average (3) Flight
  • Supreme (10) Strength Increase
    • Limit: Temporary
Qualities
  • Still a fill-in
  • Works both sides of the street
  • Knows everybody

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Degrees instead of multiple attempts

SYSTEM: ICONS, M&M

It just occurred to me degrees of success are easier than multiple attempts to achieve something using a skill.

Now, that might seem evident, but let me blather on for a bit more. Let's assume a situation I'm stealing from the Angry DM (whose work I sort of agree with but not necessarily and I'm not crazy about the angry schtick):

A player is evading someone. They run across a door that's locked. They can double back, they can pick the lock and go in, they can keep moving. They decide to pick the lock and go in. In the Angry DM's example, it takes three successes to pick the lock. I have to wonder why. (Really it's because he has a different axe to grind, involving the superiority of binary systems but I'm going a different way.)

  • By requiring three attempts you're doing two things: First, you're increasing the chance of failure. (If it's a 50% chance of success, then three successes are .5*.5*.5, or one eighth instead of one half, which means that suddenly the character is going to fail seven out of eight times instead of one out of two times.) You're vastly increasing the chance of failure.
  • You're expending the player's resources, because each attempt takes time. So at best, the character takes whatever time it takes for three lockpicking attempts.

Let's say it's conscious that you know you want to do these two things. Why not set it up so that you're doing them with one roll?

ResultEffects
3+ successYou're in, having picked the lock, but it cost you (time)!
2 successYou're in, having picked the lock, but it cost you 2x(time)!
1 successYou're in, having finally picked the lock, but it cost you 3x(time) and the pursuer knows you're in there
1 failureCan't quite get the lock, so you take off
2 failureCan't get it, and the pursuer is so close when you take off
3+ failureWe're fightin' here, because PC is caught.

As I type this, I'm realizing that many of the qualifications that I have put on things as a player ("I'm going to try to pick the lock but if I'm not getting it, I'm taking off!") are attempts to do exactly this, or forestall the really bad dice roll.

But why not think about it? Why not decide if a situation is binary or not? Sometimes something works or it doesn't. "I attempt to persuade her that these are not swords, I am a traveling Ginzu knife salesman." (One of the joys of actual TTRPG is that the GM might decide at that point that she laughs and decides that she's not going to call the cops because I have amused her instead of trying to kill her. That's not binary, but it counts as a success in my book.)

If multiple skills are involved, do you want a success pyramid instead? As GM you happen to know that the door is to Crisolanthe's bedchambers, and Crisolanthe is kept isolated because she is a conduit to strange energies. (The bad guy was going to drain them from her when she was of age, which will be soon.) So maybe to evade the pursuers you need the player to roll lockpicking (to get in) and persuasion (to keep Crisolanthe from calling for the guard or from zapping you, whichever fits Crisolanthe's personality.)

I probably wouldn't in this particular case because I'm suddenly interested in the Crisolanthe story, but you aren't, so you deliberately set it up as a success pyramid, but there are only six attempts possible: The player has to get three cumulative degrees of success on lockpicking before a deadline, and then at least one success on persuasion.

This approach also depends on choosing possible actions that have degrees, and sometimes it's difficult to do that in the heat of play.

Let's say they've come up with a plan to substitute one doodad for their forged doodad that will do something different, so when the bad guy thinks he's triggering the bomb that will destroy Venice, he's actually opening the doors to the secret base.

The obvious to me thing is that you have a simple roll of sleight of hand to substitute the remote, and then maybe a notice check so the bad guy has a chance to discover the flaw.

You've just reduced the heroes' chance of success by requiring two checks for the bad guy to notice the switch (once for the substitution, once when bad guy looks at remote). I'm pretty sure you already made one of those tougher than normal because it seemed like it should be, so why have to make both of them? (To increase the suspense, I hear you say....but really? You can't do that with roleplaying?) (Worse, you probably made them make a forgery roll at some point, and they passed it. If they didn't pass it, I might give them the notice check, but really? They passed it, dude.)

Because there are two different things involved—the forgery check andthe sleight of hand check—I might think about doing it as a success pyramid...but I might do it in a different order:

  • We don't roll for the forgery first. We assume they constructed the doodad to have it available. Not gonna roll at this point.
  • We roll sleight of hand when the time comes. Take note of the degrees of success or failure, but the thing is it always gets placed. (This is similar to my earlier idea that attacks by named villains always hit or are narrow misses, but sometimes they don't matter.)
  • Then, when Bad Guy picks up the remote, we check to see if he/she/it notices. This is really the crucial roll, so we make it a contested roll, good guy forgery versus bad guy notice...and every degree of success or failure on the sleight of hand roll counts as a bonus to the forgery roll. In the wrong place? The bad guy looks at it more closely. In the right place and looks great? Bad guy doesn't notice at all.

Forgery + degrees of sleight vs NoticeEffect
3+ successThe good guys are racing to get in
2The good guys are in
1The good guys are in but noticed
1 FailureHe notices and does not use the remote
2+He has feinted and fooled you in some way.

In both cases degrees of success or failure involve some kind of retcon or behind-the-scenes planning: The forces of the good guys are in and have overwhelmed the guards vs the bad guy has secret signaled some kind of alternate punishment for the players. If you don't like that kind of thing, then you don't like this idea much.

But the idea is to minimize the number of dice rolls and have them happen when the effect is known, rather than as they happen in the course of events.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Murder of Crowes (actual play)

Icons

Because it came up in Facebook, and because James doesn't have it tagged as ICONS...

  • James' writeup of our original edition essay at The Murder of Crowes is here
  • My notes on the same evening copied from LiveJournal and made to live here.

Last night, the regular GM was not feeling well, so I filled in with Icons. I used the "Murder of Crowes" adventure, with some things added. Everyone played the characters they had rolled up the last session or before, so I think they're happy with them, more or less.

I'm sure James will do (has done) a write-up, but here are some things for me (as GM) to remember, if we do this again. I'm going to try not to repeat James or the original module.

It's mid-July, and the local RCMP call in the heroes to deal with a murder in a small town. The town is so small there is no Tim Horton's; that's towns away. The autopsy is about to happen at the local funeral home.

Mighty Absorbo "flies" by turning into air, or (when available) helium. He wafts where he wants to go; this won't work if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.

We didn't name the town, so for records it's the (fictional) town of Little Anglia, by the French Road. The town has a mine—the father of the murdered boy worked there as a mechanic—and a dairy farm.

  • Because it's important to Weather Witch: To get the local (barely adequate) coffee, you go to Flo's Diner.
  • The murdered boy (Jacob Crowes) liked engineering and building (non-super-sciencey) gadgets. He was planning to study engineering at Dalhousie, if he was accepted.
  • He had one friend—or at least one person he was close to—named Cheryl Elicott.
  • The Mighty Absorbo calls the group's white panel van The Mole Van.
  • From looking at James' writeup, Scorcher was sent to jail, and Mighty Absorbo was dating Princess at the end of last session. In backstory we don't have to belabour, I assume that the Princess thing didn't work out. The Clique are probably being held on what, property damage and forcible confinement? And Scorcher's brother and father have powers so presumably they have money—supervillains is the idea that comes to mind, but maybe they're heroes or Just Working Stiffs. Scorcher could easily be out on bail with a "recognized superhero" to keep her out of trouble.
  • Scorcher also has a ranged fire attack now; as originally written, she didn't. Her brother and her father can fly, and she's quite put out that she didn't get the flying power. "No, turn into flame. That's all. And burn stuff. And then you know what I do? I walk away. Because I can't fly!" (No, she never said it. But that's in character.)
  • In my mind, The Laughing Skull's son pawned the Ruby of Antiquity to pay for the retirement home, but that's not canon because no one talked about it.
  • Mr. Mystic died in 1979; he retired in 1965, and was shot while taking his granddaughter out for a stroll. Closed by the police, who figured it was an old enemy with a grudge.
  • No word on who the current mystic master of North America is. (If any; it just now occurs to me that maybe the whole idea of a mystic master for the continent might be based on a mistranslation or something.)
  • The three bullies were Tommy Grinaldi (shoe size 11), Frank Cheshire (shoe size 7), and Dan McIntyre (shoe size 12). (This is important because Streamline tracked them by shoeprints.)
  • No one checked to see if any of the cows were super, but the secret is the farm had only one cow in 1969, with duplication, and now they apparently have 48 cows; the chickens and pigs are unaffected.
  • The Evil Eagle was looking for Mole-Man—but it turned out to tell him that he, EE, had taken a job out over on the mainland, out west, so he couldn't be an arch-nemesis any more. He'd put out the call, but got no takers for a replacement. (But it leaves me free for anyone else to claim to be the Evil Eagle. Not looking at MA's sister's ghost, not at all.
  • Everybody got +1 starting Determination